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Review: Captain Marvel – “An exciting and often nostalgic ride”

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After years of circulating rumours about a solo Black Widow movie (now finally in pre-production), the crown of first female led film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe instead fell to the deserving Captain Marvel.  Readers of the comics already know her as “Earth’s Mightiest Hero” but Captain Marvel’s introduction to the world of the big screen Avengers is sure to establish new fans of Carol Danvers.  While there are some changes to her origins from the comics, the film should resonate with her current followers while working to herald the arrival of a new powerful force in the MCU.  

We meet Vers/Carol (Brie Larson) on the planet of Hala, the home world of a race of ‘noble warrior heros’ called the Kree.  Her mentor, Yon-Rogg (Jude Law), has trained her as a soldier, preparing her for a life of battle, especially against their sworn enemies, the Skrulls.  However, she is haunted by memories of a past she can’t quite piece together. After a mission goes awry, she ends up on Earth, suddenly realizing that this may be the place where her past is rooted.  

It’s there she meets Nick Fury (Samuel L Jackson) and Agent Coulson (Clark Gregg), already agents of SHIELD.  With the help of her friend Maria Rambeau (Lashana Lynch) she starts to assemble the memories of her past all while trying to stop the infiltration of Earth by the ‘terrorist’ Skrulls, led by Talos (Ben Mendelsohn).  

Written and directed by filmmaking partners Anne Boden and Ryan Fleck (Half Nelson), Captain Marvel becomes a fun, space-fuelled origin story that is a joy to watch.  The first twenty minutes are a little scattered, even disorganized, but once it settles in, Captain Marvel will take you on an exciting and often nostalgic ride.  Setting the film in the 90’s means anyone growing up in that period will find particular delight in its many cultural references. The soundtrack, including tunes from Nirvana, Hole and TLC can take any 80’s baby back to their formative years, and hands down you’ll never listen to No Doubt’s “Just A Girl” the same way again.  

Captain Marvel is brought to life by a perfectly cast Brie Larson.  From the first frame she emits the embodiment of strength and fearlessness.  Whether she’s in heroic uniform or sporting a Nine Inch Nails tee, this is one woman who oozes confidence and makes no (unnecessary) apologies for it. Her friendship with Samuel L. Jackson is evident in their onscreen chemistry which makes for a compelling and often comedic ‘buddy cop’ duo that leaves you wanting more of their stories.  Jackson, playing a (seamlessly digitally altered) younger Fury, clearly has fun with the role.  Who knew Fury was a cat guy? 

Speaking of cats, the adorable feline in this film, Goose, is sure to make an indelible first impression here.  Goose surely is a scene stealer, but this four legged actor is not the only one.  The supporting cast of the film are given ample time to influence Carol’s world in important ways, with Lynch’s Maria connecting Carol back to her past and a memorable Mendelsohn linking her to an unknown future.  Annette Bening and Gemma Chan round out a formidable cast of new characters, with Lee Pace and Djimon Hounsou reprising their roles from Guardians of the Galaxy.  

While Captain Marvel doesn’t pack the same emotional punch as some other superhero entries, the early set tone of the film means you never truly expect such, and also don’t mind.  The film is often laugh out loud funny and full of great fight sequences among some clever twists and turns.  There isn’t an epic ‘Wonder Woman walking across No Man’s Land’ moment of visceral significance.  This isn’t that type of movie. Its moments are more subtle, but that never makes Carol Danvers’ journey of self-discovery any less compelling, nor Captain Marvel’s appearance on screen any less important, for so many reasons.  

Carol’s deeply rooted flaws make her undeniably human, but her perseverance and determination also originate from within her forgotten past.  She may now be Earth’s mightiest hero but she’s recognizing the hero she was before superpowers befell her as well.  Someone who always got up when she was knocked down.  She no longer has anything to prove.  Except to Thanos – and against this hero, he doesn’t stand a chance.

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